Arsenal is in my heart and always will be. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to go back and play there one day, or maybe after football. It’s a club that is always going to be there and will always open its doors to me. The club’s like a family, so even if it wasn’t as a coach, I’m sure they’d give me the chance to play a role.
Even parsing this optimistically, let’s admit that it’s little more than a diplomatic response. Of course, it’s kind of him to say that Arsenal is in his heart. He seems to dismiss or at least downplay the idea of returning as a player, and, at best, he punts on the idea of returning as a coach. He mentions the croles that Campbell and Bergkamp have played but doesn’t mention Henry, who has returned as a player, albeit briefly—and gloriously. Therefore, for as much as it might thrill us to hear Cesc saying he’d like to return, he didn’t. Credit goes to him for finessing the response, though. Tekkers, indeed.
Far more interesting to me is what he had to say about how his departure has helped the club, or at least a few players. Cesc says:
I watch the way Ramsey is playing now, how he looks so liberated, and I think maybe I blocked his way. Maybe I was an obstacle. Sometimes you need someone to leave for you to step forward and say: “I’m here.” I’m saying that about Ramsey just as an example, by the way, because the poor kid had the injury too—I could say the same for Jack. It’s the concept I’m talking about, the idea of stepping up. That mental unblocking is so important.
Of course, it would have been nice to see how they’d flourish alongside Cesc instead of without him. It’s entirely possible that Ramsey or Wilshere would be doing just as well, but we’ll never know now, will we? And so we move on. What he says applies to other players as well, of course. Keeping an eye on Crystal Palace, Arsène had this to say about Marouane Chamakh:
He was a little bit the victim of Van Persie. The problem with Marouane Chamakh is once I installed Van Persie in this position as a central striker on his own, he faced competition with a world-class player and that makes you compete.
Everything there rings true except those last few words. It’s hard to see where Chamakh competed, for he never really showed us anything even after van Persie left. Aside from contributing to the ridiculous goal-a-thon with Reading last year, he never seized the opportunity that van Persie’s departure offered and looks unlikely to do so for Crystal Palace, having taken just one shot in eight matches, a total of 524 minutes of football. Sure, it went in, but just what has he been doing over there?
On the other hand, Olivier Giroud, who, spent his summer pondering his role while we embarked on a series of wild-goose chases to find an upgrade or replacement. Instead of letting himself get run down, he’s turned in a masterful early-season performance in part because the “obstacle” never arrived. That obstacle, whether it had turned out to be Higuain or Suarez, didn’t get to him, as he said “it would have bothered me a bit, but I was not afraid of competition” even if Higuain, a direct competitor for the central striker role, had joined the club. Since then, of course, lending further credence to Cesc’s words, Giroud has already tallied seven goals and four assists in thirteen matches. If he and Ramsey continue to play as they have, Cesc’s words will prove positively prescient.
And with that, I love the idea of looking forward, rather than backward. Sure, Cesc was great for us, and merely mentioning him sparks some wonderful memories, but we’re going to get anywhere by continuously looking back. It’s one thing to get nostalgic or to learn from history, but it’s quite another to fixate on it. We’ve got a fine squad that looks capable of creating quite a few new memories of its own. Similarly, after the loss to Dortmund, we put it behind us and regroup for the next match. We’ll preview that later today. ‘Til then, enjoy the day…